Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

Ladies, Wear a Vintage Men’s Fedora

Today, I give you the next installment in our series on how to wear a vintage hat without feeling like a total dork, and not a moment too soon.

Get ready, because we’re taking back the fedora.

You know that faux hipster thing where both men and women take a (new) fedora and wear it on the back of their heads, tilted up? Don’t do that, ever, unless you are in a boy band, and even then think twice. It’s a one way ticket to dorkville, a town no adult wants to live in.

Instead, let’s treat this hat like the classic it is.

The fedora has a gender bending history, which is why it looks so great on both men and women. In Victorian times, actress Sarah Bernhardt wore one while playing a character named Fedora. Bernhard was considered sexy and she liked to wear men’s clothing at times.  The fedora gradually shifted to become a men’s hat, associated with hyper masculine actors like Bogart and Sinatra, and with gangsters like Capone and Sinatra. It went from being a symbol of co-opted masculinity to one simply considered masculine.

In the 1940’s, when women’s fashion had a bit of a menswear edge, fedoras again became popular for women. Ingrid Bergman wore one particularly well in Casablanca.

1940's stars in fedoras

Marlene Detrich,  Ingrid Bergman, Paulette Goddard, Jeanette MacDonald, Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn

How to wear one in a modern way? My preference, of course, is a vintage fedora. First, the quality is great and the style is free of gimmicks. The colors, classic neutral black, grey, brown or tan, give just the right degree of effortless panache. Their history makes them nicely worn in with the perfect patina of age and wear.

Many of the vintage men’s fedoras I find tend to be too small for modern men, meaning they are perfect for women. The fit should be fairly snug but able to sit halfway down on the forehead. Now give it an angle and tilt it off center and a bit to the front. This will really emphasize your eyes-take a look at Ingrid Bergman (center top above). Remember, a fedora isn’t worn pulled straight down low.

When you find the perfect vintage fedora, wear it around the house for a while, catching glimpses of yourself. This way you’ll get used to seeing and being seen in it.

One of the best fedora wearers today is Sarah Jessica Parker, and she wears them really often. She combines a classic small brim creased hat with jeans, sweatshirts and leather as well as with dressier pieces. Have a look:

SJP in a fedora

SJP in a fedora

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

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